Professionalism in Graphics Installation
When installers organize themselves and adopt sound business practices, there is a tremendous opportunity to profit, grow and prosper while moving the industry forward.
By Barbra Bannon, Chief Creative Enthusiast, Cranky Creative Group
Here are eight business practices you need to adopt.
In the large-format graphics industry, we all know that installation is the "make-it-or-break-it" phase of every project. It also is the most difficult part of the job to fulfill from an agency and print standpoint because imagers have to find qualified, certified and professional installers in the industry. When installers organize themselves and adopt sound business practices, there is a tremendous opportunity to profit, grow and prosper while moving the industry forward.
In an open market and a down economy, more and more installers are entering into the market. With increased competition, you have only one choice: Improve the quality of your installations and service, or you won't be around to install. This stands for all aspects of the industry: Designers, printers and installers. However, this article's focus is on the installer's piece of the puzzle and their critical role in advancing the industry. The installer's reputation is their most valuable asset. You should protect and uphold your reputation to grow your installation business over the long-term.
1. Don't Steal Jobs
The greatest mistake you can make as an installer is trying to win the business of your client at the job site. More than likely, the client you are working with is a printer or agency that will have multiple jobs for you in the future. Attempting to take jobs from your client may result in a short-term gain for you, but a long-term bust and loss of your current client for future work. Successful installation companies rely on strong relationships with print and agency partners in the industry for referral sources.
Instead, be your client's salesperson to win more business for them and for you. Tell the client how reputable their company is and how great it is to be a part of their team. When a client sees that the company that they contracted with has happy workers that take pride in their work, they are more likely to work with them again. This means more work for you! The private phone calls that go on between your client and theirs always touch on the professionalism of the installer. If it is a good one, and it wins your client more work, who will your client hire again? It may seem like a lot of work, but that double duty is going to grow your business and reputation through the roof!
2. Conduct Yourself Professionally
Ask your clients for clothes that have their logo on it so you can represent them seamlessly on site. Any installer that asks me for that wins major trust points and ensures that the installers I send out aren't dressed in torn and dirty T-shirts. If the client does not have shirts for you to wear, default to wearing a nice collared golf/polo shirt, or at least a clean, solid color T-shirt. If you know your client's initial concerns and address them before they do, they will be impressed.
For example, develop a fact sheet for your marketing materials that outlines your professionalism.
Be pleasant, but don't over talk. Talking too much can make you appear nervous. If you just work hard and are pleasant when you interact with the client, this usually is the best policy. If the client starts to ask you a lot of questions, direct them back to your client.
3. Get Certified
If you want to be trusted to do a good job, you can't rely on only telling clients that you can do it. You have to be recognized by an authority, such as SGIA's professional installer group, PDAA. Get tested and stay educated about the latest installation techniques for new materials. Clients also use their online lists to find qualified installers for their projects.
4. Stand Behind Your Work
If you anticipate something going wrong with the install from the beginning due to the layout of the print or other reasons, call your client before you continue with the install. Or, if something goes wrong during the install, admit to it, take responsibility (financially or otherwise) and move on. Putting your pride aside can save you an ongoing client relationship that can last for years.
5. Be Organized
The number one reason installers lose work is that they are not responsive enough to inquiries. Be available and call them back within two to four hours. Having a smart phone that receives email and texts can assist you in being available in most situations.
Don't be late for scheduled installs. Review all installation documentation the day before to ensure you know the details of the job and still have time to ask questions prior to showing up onsite. If you are going to be late due to unforeseen circumstances, call your client so they can let the proper people know so they can adjust their schedule. Use Google Calendar or another application that can assist you in keeping your schedule straight. Set an alarm for the day before each project to remind you to review, print maps and sign-off forms.
6. Professional Image
Even though you provide "private label installation" to your clients, you should have a professional image for your own company. Spend money on a logo design and a simple, but clean Web site showing pictures of your work. Create email templates so when you have an inquiry, you can quickly customize the template and send it out as a professional response. Business cards are optional, since you don't want to be tempted to hand them out onsite.
Ask your clients for testimonials of your work. Include these along with pictures of your work in your marketing material and on your Web site. If you don't feel comfortable listing your clients' names, list first name and last initial.
8. Take Good Pictures
Your client needs to showcase the project in their marketing materials, blogs and e-newsletters to win more work. If you provide blurry, strangely cropped pictures that are unusable from a graphics standpoint, you are not helping your client win you more business. Invest in a good camera with a flash. Take straight-on pictures from every side and 45-degree angle pictures.
Barbra Bannon is a nationally renowned alternative marketing and branding guru. As the chief creative enthusiast at Cranky Creative Group, an alternative brand promotions company, she leads a group of cutting-edge designers, project managers, creative counselors and graphics installers to continually push the edge of branding possibilities on any surface imaginable. firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks to Jim Gravlin of Red Eye Designs for his contribution in bringing this article to fruition.
Job Logistics Tips
- When opening the graphics for an installation, prepare a clean area to take them out where they will be free from dirt and dust. Dirt and dust will find its way onto your squeegee and create scratches in the laminate. It would be wise to invest in a roll of large paper to roll out on the ground and place the graphics on as you sort them for installation.
- Discuss the job thoroughly with your customer before arriving to install the graphics. Know what is expected before you get there so you will be prepared for the job at hand. When you arrive onsite, it shouldn't be the first time you see the graphics!
- Let the company you are installing for know ahead of time what things can be ready when you arrive to make things go smoother and faster on the install - but be careful not to ask too much of the end customer. They are paying for the work and shouldn't be made to feel like they are doing half the job.
- Clean as you go. Don't leave backing or cut pieces of scrap lying around any longer than necessary while working on a job. Backing can be very slippery. If the customer comes out to see how things are going, they may step on the backing and slip.
- Examine all the graphics and drawings for placement and accuracy before installing the first piece. An extra 30 minutes of time up front can save hours of reprinting and weeks of rescheduling. This also looks out for the end customer and the company for which you are installing. Installation is the last step - help keep it there.
- When finished, clean your work area and dispose of your trash even if that means taking it with you. Don't leave any bags of garbage for the client even if they tell you to!
- Inspect the job thoroughly to make sure everything is trimmed out and overlaps are trimmed evenly. Wipe the project clean of fingerprints and heat out any squeegee scratches with your torch. The first time the customer sees the end project, it should look as good as a brand new car off the dealership floor. You want them to come back for more - a win-win for everyone!
This article appeared in the SGIA Journal, 1st Quarter 2011 Issue and is reprinted with permission. Copyright 2011 Specialty Graphic Imaging Association (www.sgia.org). All Rights Reserved.